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The Canterbury Tales

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550






The preyere stinte of Arcita the stronge,
The ringes on the temple-dore that honge,
And eek the dores, clatereden ful faste,
Of which Arcita som-what him agaste.
The fyres brende upon the auter brighte,
That it gan al the temple for to lighte;
And swete smel the ground anon up-yaf,
And Arcita anon his hand up-haf,
And more encens in-to the fyr he caste,
With othere rytes mo; and atte laste
The statue of Mars bigan his hauberk ringe.
And with that soun he herde a murmuringe
Ful lowe and dim, that sayde thus, ‘Victorie:’
For which he yaf to Mars honour and glorie.
And thus with Ioye, and hope wel to fare,
Arcite anon unto his inne is fare,
As fayn as fowel is of the brighte sonne.
When Arcite had finished saying his prayer, the doors to the temple slammed shut with a bang all by themselves. The altar fires grew stronger so that they lit up the whole temple, while a sweet fragrance began wafting up from the floor. Frightened a little, Arcite threw more incense into the fires and began reciting prayers. And then suddenly the chain mail on the statue of Mars began to clank as a low voice murmured, “Victory.” Grateful for the omen, Arcite said more prayers and made more sacrifices to Mars. And when he was finished, he left the temple, happy that Mars had heard his prayers.


560









570

And right anon swich stryf ther is bigonne
For thilke graunting, in the hevene above,
Bitwixe Venus, the goddesse of love,
And Mars, the sterne god armipotente,
That Iupiter was bisy it to stente;
Til that the pale Saturnus the colde,
That knew so manye of aventures olde,
Fond in his olde experience an art,
That he ful sone hath plesed every part.
As sooth is sayd, elde hath greet avantage;
In elde is bothe wisdom and usage;
Men may the olde at-renne, and noght at-rede.
Saturne anon, to stinten stryf and drede,
Al be it that it is agayn his kynde,
Of al this stryf he gan remedie fynde.
Arcite may have been happy, but Venus was furious when she heard that Mars had promised his favored Theban warrior victory. She and Mars got into a big fight, which Jupiter tried unsuccessfully to resolve. Finally, old Saturn, who’d seen so many other squabbles between gods in his time, stepped in with a compromise that would make everyone happy. I guess it’s true that we get wiser as we get older. Anyway, Saturn turned to them both, and said:

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